September 11 assaults: Home windows on the World chef on his near-miss on 9/11
Michael Lomonaco escaped together with his life on Sept. 11, 2001 all due to a detour on his technique to work and a pair of busted studying glasses.
On that day, the New York Metropolis chef was headed to his job as culinary director of Home windows on the World, the famed eating area on the World Commerce Middle. He took on the place in 1997 after an already spectacular profession that included stints at such iconic Large Apple eateries as Le Cirque and the 21 Membership.
However Home windows represented a towering subsequent step, actually and figuratively, because it was a high-profile restaurant located close to the highest of one of many Commerce Middle’s twin towers.
It was additionally an especially demanding job — the “restaurant,” unfold throughout the 106th and 107th flooring of the North Tower, was truly just a few eating and consuming spots rolled into one, serving as many as 1,000 clients a day. And that meant Lomonaco usually put in lengthy hours, arriving at 8:30 a.m. and dealing via dinner. It additionally meant he had little time to attend to private chores.
“‘I might see folks waving tablecloths out the home windows of what I took to be the restaurant.’”
So, Lomonaco took benefit of no matter free moments fell his method. And on the morning of Sept. 11, he used one such second to get his glasses mounted, pushed to make an appointment by his spouse forward of an Italian trip the couple was taking the next week. He was at a LensCrafters retailer within the Commerce Middle’s buying concourse when the primary airplane hit.
MarketWatch spoke with the 66-year-old chef, who now heads Porter Home Bar and Grill and Hudson Yards Grill, two eating places in New York Metropolis, to speak about what occurred that day and the way he has since moved on together with his life.
8:46 a.m.: The primary airplane hits the North Tower
Lomonaco was initially scheduled to go to the LensCrafters at midday on Sept. 11, 2001. However as a result of he was working forward of schedule because of a lighter-than-normal commute, he determined to pay a go to early that morning when he had an opportunity — “What chef doesn’t need to save time?” — with the hope he might be accommodated. “I believed, ‘Let me see if I can do that now.’” The shop certainly had a gap.
When the primary airplane hit at 8:46 a.m., Lomonaco was nonetheless at LensCrafters. “We have been minutes away from being completed . . . They have been most likely about to promote me a brand new body,” he says. All of the sudden, he was jolted by the crash. “I simply thought, ‘Might that be the subway?’ It seems it was the influence of the primary airplane.“ The lights flickered after which went out within the retailer. And inside a minute or two, the constructing’s safety group arrived and suggested that the concourse was being evacuated.
When Lomonaco obtained to the road, he noticed that “the sky was plagued by paper, like confetti. That was all from the places of work.” He additionally noticed “smoldering, burning particles” on the bottom. “I took it to be a small automobile,” he says, however he realizes now it was most likely a part of the airplane’s fuselage.
He headed away to make calls at a pay telephone since his cell service was out. He reached his spouse — “I mentioned, ‘I don’t know what’s occurred. I simply need you to know I’m outdoors” — and the Home windows on the World possession. He began pondering of his workers on the restaurant. “I used to be attempting to make a psychological listing of who was working.” He figured he’d return instantly to the Commerce Middle. “If I can assist in any method, I believed, ‘Let me go assist.’ It was not logical. It was emotional.”
9:03 a.m.: The second airplane hits the South Tower
However Lomonaco didn’t make it again to the scene. As an alternative, he was considered one of many bewildered New Yorkers on the road when the second airplane hit at 9:03 a.m. “I heard the roar of the jet engines. I appeared up in the meanwhile of influence,” Lomonaco recollects. After which, he realized the total gravity of the scenario: “That is an assault. We’re underneath assault.” Somebody grabbed his arm and tried to tug him right into a constructing — “They provided me security” — however he walked north.
Finally, he stopped to see the harm. “It was terrifying and stunning unexpectedly . . . I might see folks waving tablecloths out the home windows of what I took to be the restaurant. I imagined they broke the home windows. I imagined the area was stuffed with smoke.” At 9:59 am., the South Tower collapsed, adopted by the North Tower at 10:28 a.m. The Twin Towers have been gone, however Lomonaco remained secure.
Lomonaco says that 79 individuals who labored at Home windows misplaced their lives that day. So did 91 restaurant visitors (the eating spot had its a.m. regulars and was additionally internet hosting a convention that morning). The Home windows employees was a various, worldwide group — to the purpose the group referred to itself because the “little UN.”
Within the aftermath of 9/11, Lomonaco helped arrange the Home windows of Hope fund to assist the households of Home windows workers who died, together with the households of different Commerce Middle food-service employees who perished.
“These are individuals who might be simply forgotten, missed and uncared for, the folks (usually) on the lowest strata of the financial pay scale,” he says. Thus far, the fund has raised $22 million.
A brand new chapter in New York
After 9/11, Lomonaco held totally different restaurant and consulting positions. He additionally says he had some selection alternatives to work in Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas and elsewhere. However he by no means thought of leaving town put up 9/11: “I’m a local New Yorker, and I used to be by no means going to maneuver after this.”
Finally, he obtained to comprehend a dream and set up his personal restaurant in Porter Home, a steakhouse with an upscale, gourmet-centric method. In some ways, the Midtown institution, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this yr, is a continuation of Home windows on the World, since Lomonaco borrowed some culinary concepts he started exploring at Wild Blue, the restaurant-within-a-restaurant on the Commerce Middle eating spot. Lomonaco additionally introduced aboard key employees folks he had at Home windows.
“‘I’m a local New Yorker and I used to be by no means going to maneuver after this.’”
Lomonaco recollects how folks have been hesitant to return to eating places in New York after 9/11. And the identical has been true in the course of the pandemic, albeit for various causes. It took him many months earlier than he reopened Porter Home. And he’s lastly reopening Hudson Yards Grill, his different institution, within the coming weeks. However Lomonaco stays bullish on town and its eating scene. “New York could also be down, however you possibly can by no means rely us out,” he says.
Lomonaco notes that he was hardly the one one to cheat dying on 9/11. Certainly, clients left Home windows as late as 8:44 a.m., in keeping with one report.
“Many individuals survived that day in different methods, too,” Lomonaco says. However he considers himself “among the many lucky.” And ever since 9/11, he has aimed to look ahead. “I’ve tried to steadiness my life by by no means taking life without any consideration,” he concludes.
This story was initially printed in September 2021, and has been republished for the anniversary of the September 11 assaults.